BY LORNA SIGGINS [email protected]
When Claddagh native Tommy Holohan was growing up in Galway Bay, he remembered how neighbors held competitions to swim to a ship wreck off Mutton Island.
Now he thinks he has located the anchor of the same ship, named Nordlyset, in the sands off Nimmo Pier.
âWe’re not sure, but the anchor chain is here and near part of the keel, so there’s every reason to believe the actual anchor is a few feet below,â Holohan said. .
“If it can be located and then raised, it should be on display as a key part of Galway’s maritime history,” he said.
The Nordlyset, or Northern Lights, was a 1,600 ton steel three-masted barque built in Greenock, Scotland, in 1891.
It was carrying a cargo of lumber from Rimouski, Canada, to Galway when it struck rocks off Mutton Island in November 1914.
None of the crew perished, but much of their cargo was washed ashore or recovered, Holohan says.
âThey got it off the rocks and towed it, and the hull was straight up and we could see it for several years,â he explains.
“The Claddagh men had competitions to swim to her,” he recalls.
âThen Hammond Lane Metal Company was sent to take what was valuable and strip it,â says Holohan.
âShe was a beautiful ship, and a ship that sailed the oceans. It was equipped with the most modern technology they had at the time.
“Galway aimed to become a great transatlantic port and, of course, it was one of the many ships to run aground in the bay, but perhaps one of the best known to people still alive,” Holohan said.
âAll that was left after Hammond Lane was over was the keel, and we think the anchor has to be here. “I think if the correct buoys were used it could help raise the keel and it would indicate the anchor,” he said.
The wreck was also near South Park, known as “Swamp”, which was Galway’s dumping ground until the late 1950s, he points out.
âWhen we were growing up on the Claddagh we didn’t have any toys, so we would come back looking for toys in the landfill or for food. When my mother was young, she and her sisters were sent to the landfill for the ashes for the fire, âhe says.
Holohan is a grandson of Nan Toole, who was known for her medicinal treatments in the Claddagh. She gave birth at home in 1951 and died a year later in 1952.
An avid athlete, Holohan holds the world record for the number of times an Irishman has run the New York Marathon consecutively, and has also run marathons in Dublin, Boston, Edinburgh and the Mojave Desert.
He is a founding member of the Anti-Austerity Alliance and represented the alliance in the 2014 local elections and the 2016 general elections. Besides politics and running, he also has a keen interest in local history.